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General Aviation: The Changes Since 9/11

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 tragedy, general aviation security was immediately thrust into scrutiny.  The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the pilot community, and the federal government implemented numerous security measures in response, even though general aviation had no role in the events that morning.
 
The AOPA of Frederick, Maryland, represents two out of every three pilots in the US. "AOPA and the pilot community have worked hard during the past seven years to increase general aviation security,- said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "General aviation is more secure, in large part, because the pilot community has a vested interest in protecting their aircraft and airports.-
 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff recognized the importance of such efforts. "The fact is that government, the federal government or the state government, does not need to order people to protect assets when the people themselves place great value on the assets,- said Chertoff, during a speech at the Brookings Institution.
 
Pilots" investment in aviation is the foundation of AOPA"s Airport Watch Program, which has been tremendously successful. Through the program, pilots secure their aircraft and watch for and report suspicious activity at their airports through a toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE). AOPA has also been at the forefront advocating for a reasonable approach anytime security measures are proposed. The association has also dispelled common myths that general aviation airplanes pose a threat to national security.
 
For example, AOPA commissioned a report by an internationally recognized nuclear safety and security expert to directly address concerns about any potential risk posed by general aviation aircraft to nuclear power plants. Since then, the government has agreed that general aviation poses no threat to nuclear plants. While AOPA has led and worked hard for industry initiatives that support voluntary security standards, there have been times that the government stepped in and made regulations.
 
AOPA worked with the FAA and Transportation Security Administration on the process for student pilot background checks while fighting attempts at the state level that would have duplicated that effort and made it prohibitive for new students to become pilots.
 
Another broad-reaching change since 9/11 is the requirement that pilots carry government-issued ID at all times on board the aircraft. Additionally, 75 percent of active pilots have already switched to plastic, more counterfeit-resistant pilot certificates.

By Michelle Simmons
Get Pilot Jobs, Contributing Editor

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